I’ve played through Cuphead dozens of times over the past five years, and each time I appreciate its hand-drawn artistry even more. I still find new visual flourishes that I had never noticed before–split-second facial animations and the tiniest of details on the myriad objects and projectiles that fill the stages of frantic boss fights. Somehow, Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course easily surpasses the pure artistic beauty of the base game. The level of detail on display in the DLC’s handful of boss fights is simply mind-boggling. More than just visually impressive, though, the new boss fights are more exciting, dynamic, and mechanically diverse. Coupled with a creative new playable character in Ms. Chalice and multiple interesting new weapons/charms, The Delicious Last Course is a triumph that expands on the base game in clever ways while also improving the original campaign itself.
Ms. Chalice is a game-changer in The Delicious Last Course, so it’s not too surprising that the DLC’s story is centered around her. The Legendary Chalice, a ghost who granted players Super Arts abilities in the main campaign, wants to come back to life. To do that, Ms. Chalice, Cuphead, and Mugman must collect the ingredients for the Wondertart from the bosses scattered across Inkwell Isle IV. In the meantime, there’s a temporary fix for her not-being-alive problem: the Astral Cookie, a new charm that can be equipped to play as Ms. Chalice. And playing as Ms. Chalice is a fairly significant departure, especially for someone like me who has played the original campaign so many times.
While Cuphead and Mugman are functionally the same fighter, Ms. Chalice meaningfully changes how it feels to go up against the assortment of larger-than-life bosses. The Astral Cookie charm gives Ms. Chalice three unique abilities: double jump, dash parry, and invincible roll. She also gets an extra hit point. Considering that Cuphead is largely played with three buttons (jump, shoot, dash), altering how any of those operate shakes things up. At first, I found playing as Ms. Chalice a real challenge; it basically felt like I was learning how to play Cuphead again for the first time. I often pressed the jump button again to parry like I would with Cuphead or Mugman and wound up taking damage. But when it clicked, I learned that Ms. Chalice is an extremely versatile and nimble character.
The dash parry combined with the double jump, in particular, allows you to move in ways that simply weren’t possible as Cuphead or Mugman. You can jump once, dash into a projectile, and then jump again in a different direction. Projectiles that were previously out of reach are now reachable. I found myself zipping around more as Ms. Chalice than I normally would, which ultimately changed the way I approached each boss. I even replayed the entire main campaign as Ms. Chalice, and it was easily my most exciting run since playing the game for the first time five years ago.
Meanwhile, the invincible roll introduces an entirely new mechanic. You have to crouch and then dash to execute the nifty maneuver. Functionally, it’s similar to the Smoke Bomb charm, except you have to be on the ground to perform it. The dodge roll has the biggest learning curve since you have to press down and dash. There’s a risk-reward balance here, as it’s challenging to execute it seamlessly. If you mistime it, you’ll take a hit. Once I mastered it, though, I found many instances where it proved to be the best maneuver for certain treacherous situations. It even caused me to move to spots on the stages of some original bosses that I largely avoided as Cuphead and Mugman.
It’s clear that the bosses that inhabit Inkwell Isle IV were designed with Ms. Chalice’s suite of abilities in mind. The cadence of projectiles and locations of them often compelled me to use the double jump or dodge roll to avoid them, and it frequently seemed like there were more parryable objects than in the base game that encouraged me to move about the stage in pursuit of filling my special meter quicker. On that note, Ms. Chalice’s Super Arts moves are also different. Her Spiral Pillar shoots upwards rather than horizontally. Her defensive Shield Pal special lets you get hit once without taking damage, and the Ghostly Barrage summons her spectral form to deal damage to the bosses. Shield Pal will be particularly useful for those who struggle with getting hit by the huge swarms of attacks.
Inkwell Isle IV features six traditional Cuphead boss fights, and each of them is more elaborate than the last. Make no mistake: The cadence of the battles will feel familiar. All of them are multi-phase events featuring an endless barrage of projectiles, sidekick foes, and obstacles that force you to keep moving as you send a barrage of bullets at the big baddie. As previously mentioned, though, the level of detail compared to the main campaign’s bosses is truly astounding. With more frames of animation, dynamic backdrops, and an increased amount of visual flourishes to the bosses themselves, The Delicious Last Course takes the hallmark feature of the Cuphead experience to the next level.
Glumstone the Giant, the first DLC boss, is a perfect demonstration of how the DLC does more with its characters to bring them to life. The chaotic first phase features goop flying out of Glumstone’s mouth, gnomes with hammers, flocks of geese, and even a bear to contend with. It’s a humorous and creative start that only gets better during the second phase, which features a delightful callback to foes from the main campaign. And the surprises keep coming, as the third phase changes the stage altogether. All three phases come together to create a varied fight that forced me to use different techniques and swap between weapons. While multi-environment fights with that much variation aren’t entirely new in Cuphead, the fight with Glumstone mostly reminded me of the final showdowns with King Dice and the Devil–the most mechanically interesting bosses in the original. What’s most impressive is that every boss in the DLC has a “final boss” feel to it.
From a design perspective, Doggone Dog Fight has the coolest stage across the entire Cuphead experience. You’re pitted against The Howling Aces, a team of dogs specializing in aerial spectacles. You have to participate in the stunts, too, as you’re confined to walking across the top of a small airplane that’s zipping through the air. Since you only have a little platform to work with, deftly timed jumps and dodges are key. When a giant flying mechanical dog passed by me in the sky, I sensed the final phase was going to be tricky. I wasn’t prepared for the final stunt, and even after I knew it was coming, it still frequently tripped me up.
That’s the other thing about the DLC bosses: Their unique variations and wide array of attacks force you to stay nimble–even during phase transitions, which were often moments of reprieve in the base game. The Moonshine Mob adds a level of deception not present in any other boss fight, as the final phase really is all about forcing you to make ill-advised decisions. The fight also adds some fresh verticality into the mix, allowing you to attack from both above and below the boss.
There’s only one actual aerial boss in the bunch, a cow named Esther Winchester, who hides out in a saloon. Esther rivals Dr. Kahl’s Robot in terms of complexity for this type of Cuphead boss, as it has a couple of the most chaotic sequences throughout the entire game. The fight also gives you an opportunity to try Ms. Chalice’s slightly different airplane mechanics. Her default plane attack is a spread shot, and her bomb attack is faster but not as precise as Cuphead’s. In practice, neither of these moves really gives Ms. Chalice an advantage against Esther, mainly because hit boxes in Cuphead aren’t alway very big in the aerial fights.
Unsurprisingly, it’s not just the visuals that make The Delicious Last Course a beautiful homage to cartoons of the 1930s and early 1940s. Just like the rest of the game, the DLC has a catchy orchestrated soundtrack with a mixture of strings and horn instruments. The jazzy tunes have a big band vibe to them, and they wonderfully complement the on-screen action. Try to play Cuphead on mute and see how much is lost; without the accompanying music, crackling effects, and rhythmic sounds made by the weapons and other objects, Cuphead wouldn’t be Cuphead.
While the new bosses certainly feel aligned to Ms. Chalice’s moves, you can square off against them as Cuphead or Mugman for a whole new challenge that asks you to rethink your approach to certain attacks. Figuring out how to avoid obstacles that felt like a natural fit for Ms. Chalice was like solving a clever riddle. The new Heart Ring charm certainly helps. It adds one hit point on your first, third, and sixth parries, with the caveat that parrying won’t fill up your super meter. For players who pride themselves on parrying every object in sight, you’re rewarded for your diligence and given more leeway from some of the trickier projectiles to dodge as Cuphead.
The trio of new weapons, which can be used by any character, are highly versatile and well-designed. Crackshot will be the most useful for newcomers as it shoots straight at first before breaking into homing projectiles. Think of it as a better version of the Chaser. Converge has two different fire patterns: a full-screen spread shot and a concentrated burst of electricity–the latter of which can only be accessed by holding the lock button to stop you from moving left or right. The Twist-Up is quite different from other weapons in the game thanks to its little tornadoes that move in an upward arching path. Though veteran players likely already have their go-to weapons, the three new options may make you rethink your strategy. Unlike some of the original weapons, each of these are useful for almost any boss in the game.
New weapons and charms are once again purchased from the shop, but there are no DLC run-and-gun levels to collect coins in. Instead, Studio MDHR introduced a series of fights called The King’s Leap. Located in a castle in the sky, The King’s Leap’s five stages are parry-only fights against chess-themed foes. You start against a series of fast-moving pawns before moving onto larger foes like a sword-wielding knight, a bouncing bishop, and an axe-grinding knight. These wind up feeling like platforming levels, each with their own unique requirements for damaging a boss with the power of your parry alone. While the run-and-gun levels were the least interesting aspect of the base game for me, the showdowns in The King’s Leap are nearly as creative and thrilling as the regular bosses.
Given how many times I’ve played Cuphead, it’s hard for me to really gauge how difficult Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is. I’d say the DLC bosses are at least on par with Inkwell Isle III and Inkwell Hell bosses in terms of the challenge, and some sections of fights are more trying than any aspect of the base game. Ms. Chalice makes things slightly easier and may offer a path forward for those who got stuck the first time around. You can unlock her as a playable character very early on in the main campaign. Still, each boss is a test of skill that will likely trip up seasoned players. I completed the DLC in three hours and beat all of the bosses on expert difficulty within five hours. But I also played through the main game as Ms. Chalice first, and it took me three hours as well. So there was definitely a learning curve for me with the new bosses.
The challenge of Cuphead is part of its identity, and those who appreciated that balance of beauty and frustration will find that the DLC embraces that spirit. All that said, because The Delicious Last Course makes an already visually striking game even more stunning, it would’ve been nice to see some optional accessibility and difficulty features to open up the game to more players. The “simple” difficulty mode returns in the DLC, but once again it sadly eliminates entire phases from fights and doesn’t award you ingredients, which means you can’t complete the DLC this way.
Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is worth the long wait. Ms. Chalice gives players a brand-new way to approach each boss, and each of the new boss fights is an imaginative triumph, from both a visual and gameplay perspective. The new parry-focused fights add a twist to the Cuphead platforming formula that feels right at home while offering something new to the experience. Even the already-great main campaign is improved thanks to Ms. Chalice and a trio of new weapons that shake things up for Cuphead and Mugman. Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course adds more than a cherry on top; it changes the recipe to create a game that’s more scrumptious than before.